How Much Caffeine are You Drinking?

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Seasonal Affective Disorder – you CAN blame it on the weather

 

sad woman in bedHere in the northeast, we are angry, we are bitter, we are tired and we are sick. And frankly, we are sick and tired of being bitter and angry. On Instagram, there is a hashtag #f%$@thiswinter and while I find that mildly disturbing, it actually made me feel good to see a picture of a bloody snowman being stabbed with a sword. Even, people who claim to love the winter are starting to lose it. When you live in the tristate area, part of the reason you love the winter is so you can play in the snow once or twice and look forward to the beautiful rebirth of spring. We had more than our fair share of snow and ice — even the kids are done with snowball fights — and spring is starting to look like last year’s winter. I am so exhausted I’ve done two pregnancy tests because other than when I had mono, it is the only other time I’ve felt this kind of fatigue. (Both were negative or I’d be writing this from an asylum.) I’ve considered a slew of chronic illnesses, but with my main symptoms being extreme moodiness and lack of patience, I think I may be SAD, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

How can you tell if you have SAD, for which there are treatments or therapies, or you are just really sick of being cooped up with your kids?

- SAD usually starts in the late fall with symptoms not clearing until spring or summer (check)

- Symptoms include:
depression
hopelessness
anxiety
decreased libido
oversleeping and fatigue
a heavy feeling in the arms and legs
social withdrawal
changes in your appetite
weight gain
difficulty concentrating

Uh oh! Depending on the day, I’m at least 5 for 10. In addition, women experience SAD more frequently than men, but men may have more severe symptoms. So … should I write myself a prescription?

When should you see your doctor?
- if your symptoms become severe, interfering with your daily activities and/or work
- if you are self-medicating with alcohol or drugs
- if your sleeping or eating patterns have changed
- if you are feeling hopeless or suicidal
- if you just can’t take it anymore

For more on Seasonal Affective Disorder, diagnosis and treatment, check out the Mayo Clinic’s website. 

Why do I bring this up now, just as we can start to see the promise of spring? A true diagnosis of SAD requires two years of symptoms. Take note of how you are feeling now and how you are feeling 4-6 weeks from now. If you currently have many of the above symptoms and they clear before summer, pay attention come autumn. If, as the days shorten, so does your love of life, you should take action before you suffer through another season of SAD. Speak with your doctor, there are treatments available.

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Don’t Let the Sunshine Fool You — You can still get sick

spring, flowersAs we crawl through the snow and ice out of one of the worst winters in recent memory, we want to say goodbye to colds and flus and and all the non-specific illnesses even our docs can’t identify.

It goes without saying, viruses are rampant in the winter. We are cooped up inside. Our houses are like habitable petri dishes, and a large portion of our take home pay is going toward Purell, Lysol and Kleenex. But, you are not out of the woods yet.

Spring is stressful with all the running around and intensifying of the schedules. It is even more depressing to be sick when the weather is beautiful. There are some simple things you can do to boost your immune system and be able to make the most out of the most hopeful season.

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”  ~Robin Williams

Don’t miss out on the fun:

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. I mean it. Start today. Not only will they protect you from illness in the short term, they will help protect you from chronic illness in the long term.

2. Cut down on sugar. Don’t replace your sugar with artificial sweeteners. I don’t trust them (except in my Diet Coke, but that’s different because I’m addicted.)

3. Get some exercise. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Even twenty minutes a day will do you a world of good.

4. Drink more water. I don’t know of any studies supporting hydration as an immune booster, but it will make your skin and mucous membranes moister which will make them better barriers against infection. It will improve your digestion to keep things moving in the right direction.

5. Take steps to get stress under control. Make a plan. The spring will bring more stress.

- carpool with friends and neighbors
- say “No” if your social schedule is getting too hectic
- miss a few of your kids’ games
- find time to be alone, whether you are exercising or just sitting outside listening to a favorite playlist
- get organized

 

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5 Things You Won’t Want to Do to Ease Spring Allergies

It snowed today — again. My kids and I almost cried. We are done with the cold, done with the flurries, we are even almost done with Frozen. We want the spring to come in the worst way, and yet, with spring comes allergy season. For millions of American children, the beauty of the blooming flowers, the budding trees and the warm breezes comes with a price — itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, headaches and fatigue.

And, spring will come as it always does. After this incredibly rough northeast winter, you will want to fling your windows open, get them outside and relax in the sun. If your kids are allergy sufferers though, you have to do just the opposite.

The best way to combat spring allergies is to be proactive.

1. Keep your doors and windows shut. Keep pollen out as much as possible.

2. The same goes for the car. Keep the windows and vents shut tight.

3. Check the pollen count and try to keep your kids indoors when it is at its worst.

4. Clean everything that has been outdoors in hot water as soon as possible, this goes for clothes, little bodies and pets. Leave shoes at the door. Vacuum and dust often. I know, I know, now spring ain’t looking so great anymore.

5. With the doors and windows shut, you’ll be relying more on AC. Have your ducts and units cleaned prior to the first use, so potential allergens aren’t blown all over the home.

While you may want to reach out and embrace the warmer weather, if your kids suffer from seasonal allergies, you’ll have to hold spring at an arm’s length. Allergies can affect sleep, school performance and socializing. If you suspect your child has seasonal allergies, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your options. Sometimes, a prescription nasal spray is enough to keep pollen at bay.

Posted in Allergies, seasonal allergies | Leave a comment

Now We Can’t Even Take Tylenol?

I’ve long believed there is a conspiracy to hold pregnant women down. We can’t have wine even though fabulous European women are having perfect pregnancies and babies with corkscrew in hand. We can’t eat sushi despite the fact the Japanese are giving birth to some of the most intelligent and creative people in the world. We have to limit our caffeine intake to 1/2 cup a day regardless of the fact the generation before us was overdosing on Tab soda and Marlboros. Perhaps if expectant women weren’t treated like children who don’t understand moderation and can’t control their urges, American women would be having healthier, happier pregnancies. Maybe, then we would even need less pain relief and this new acetaminophen study would be less alarming.

The study published in JAMA Pediatrics looked at about 65,000 people and found that children born to women who took tylenol at any point in their pregnancy had a 29% increased risk of being diagnosed with ADHD. The study does not prove any causal relationship however, so for now, it is just one less thing to worry about.

For me, when I have a headache or some muscle pain, tylenol does just as much to give me relief as wishing on a star. While it is a great fever reducer, it doesn’t have the anti-inflammatory component of ibuprofen. Pregnant women are advised to avoid ibuprofen completely during their pregnancy, even though it has only been shown to have detrimental side effects after 30 weeks gestation. So, I guess we will now, when a pregnant woman is in pain, she will just be expected to suffer in silence. I’m coming back in my next life as a man.

Posted in Wellness, Women | Leave a comment

Great Conversation Starter: What is the job of a parent?

My initial answer to this question is whatever they do outside the home to earn money. I have always had a problem with motherhood being described as the toughest “job”. I’ve had many jobs and I’ve gotten paid for all of them. I’ve loved some jobs, but not in the way I love my kids. By this definition from google, a job is:

  1. 1.
    a paid position of regular employment.
    “jobs are created in the private sector, not in Washington”
    NOTE the word “Paid”
  2. 2.
    a task or piece of work, esp. one that is paid.
    “she wants to be left alone to get on with the job”
    NOTE “esp. one that is paid”

    “Job”, at the same time, exaggerates the macro role of motherhood and minimizes the importance of its micro role. Don’t get me wrong. I think it is really hard, at many times, teetering on the impossible. To define it as a job feels like a desperate 21st century attempt to justify a societal position which needs no justification. Moms rule. We always have. Enough said. Jobs are so much easier than this.

    Anyway, in this instance, I have to overlook the “job of parenting” because this post is so great. Lisa Heffernan on her blog Grown and Flown, looks back at raising her children and wonders why she made it so difficult on herself. It is worth a read if you struggle at all with your role as parent.
Posted in Parenting | Leave a comment

Small Kids and Planes … the trick is to stay calm and be prepared

Traveling with small kids? Here’s what to carry on the plane.

A few years ago, we took a family vacation to Turks and Caicos. My twins were about 15 months old. The girls were 5, 7 and 9. The flight home was meant to take about 3½ hours. We ended up on the plane for 12. I was ill prepared, as were the flight attendants. You want to see angry people? Lock them on a plane for a day with very few provisions, lots of kids and not a lot of information. I learned my lesson and now, when I travel, I am as prepared as an eagle scout.

For germ control:
Boogie wipes – I just discovered these little wet tissues. The name is kind of gross, but they are great for plane travel because the recycled air is extremely drying.

Hand sanitizer – Use before, during and after the flight to ensure a healthy trip.

Disinfectant wipes – Planes are turned around very quickly at the gate, and you have no idea who was in your seats before you. Your kids will be squirming and rubbing their little hands and faces all over their seat for hours. Take a few moments to de-germ.

In case of an emergency:

Benadryl – An allergic reaction at 35,000 feet can be really scary if you aren’t prepared.

Tylenol – If you have a child who has a hard time taking medicine, consider bringing a suppository.

Plastic bags and Extra wipes – You never know what you might have to clean up.

A change of clothes, for you and your kids. Children are messy, even when they aren’t cooped up. Spills and accidents are bound to happen.

For fun:

Playdoh – One jar of modeling clay in your child’s favorite color can provide hours of fun.

Paperback picture books – Bring one of their favorites and one they’ve never seen.

Crayons  and Blank Paper – Coloring in the lines can be frustrating in turbulence. Stick to free draw to avoid whining and crying.

Toddler sized headphones – I have made the mistake of bringing only ear buds and then spent hours holding them in little ears. Bring smaller headphones you’ve tried at home and know will fit. None of the DVDs you bring or movies on the plane will help you if the kids can’t hear them.

For comfort:

Soft blanket – Most airlines don’t offer blankets and pillows. Remember a sleeping child makes everyone happy.

Their “thing” – Whether it’s a blanket or a special toy, remember to pack it in the carry on and not in your checked baggage.

Mind your clothing – If your child is small enough to still sleep on your shoulder, wear something he will want to rest his head on.

To eat:

New snacks — Leave time for a quick stop at a shop near the gate. Look for snacks you know your child will like, but hasn’t tried before. The novelty adds to the distraction.

Something to suck on – Repetitive swallowing during take off and landing will help to prevent ear pain.

Pack two sippy cups or bottles.  One is bound to get lost.

Avoid:

Toys that make a lot of noise.

Small things that can get lost between the seats and create drama.

Foods that present choking hazards.

Tips:

Don’t show them all your cards at once. Space out your tricks, so you don’t run out of options before the plane lands.

Make your children self-sufficient travelers as early as possible. The sooner they learn to hold their own carry on and pack their own entertainment, the happier your vacations will be.

Keep your eye on the prize. The plane will land eventually no matter how many dirty looks you get from fellow passengers.

Remember, regardless of how difficult the journey, a family vacation is a wonderful gift for everyone.

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ONE Tip for a Successful Family Vacation

Lower your expectations! That’s it. 

I never went on a family vacation as a kid, not one. Maybe this is why I used to expect my kids to be so overwhelmed with appreciation on a trip, they would be perfect angels with an expression of constant awe and jubilation on their little faces. When they were anything but grateful and excited, I would get annoyed. I must’ve said a thousand times through the early years of parenting, “Do you know how lucky you are?” and “Do you know what I would’ve done to be able to go on a vacation with my parents?” My annoyance would translate into diminished fun for everyone. At some point in my older age, I realized this was my problem, not theirs.

- On a beautiful snowy mountain, sporting very expensive gear and an even more expensive lift ticket, cold hands will still lead to complaining.

- In crystal blue waters, under a sunny sky, bug bites still itch and sand will still get into eyes.

- On a fully equipped cruise ship, complete with super slides and arcades, boredom is still boredom.

- In Disney World, despite living characters who look exactly like the characters on TV, fear of strangers and large stuffed things will still prevail.

- Even at one of the seven wonders of the world, little legs will still get tired of walking and you will end up with a rider on your shoulders.

Perspective is a wonderful thing. Some of my favorite vacation memories are of very imperfect moments. Change of latitude does not always result in a change of attitude. The trip is paid for. Even if you have to ignore your children, just enjoy it!

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Posted in Kids, Parenting, Tips, Travel Medicine | Leave a comment